When researching accounting and payroll software for your company, be sure to get these commonly forgotten questions answered, or you may have unwanted surprises down the line.
What are my ongoing yearly costs, and what does that include?
People often remember to ask the upfront costs for a software package but place less importance on the ongoing costs, which can be substantial. Even if your upfront costs are minimal, you may be shocked when you find out as the years go by that there are additional costs for functionality your company requires. For example, you decide you want to start processing payroll via direct deposit, only to find out there is an expensive per-check fee for that service. Another example is support, which can be handled in various ways depending on the software company. Be sure to ask what support is included in the price, what that support includes, and what the ongoing costs for it are.
Can I talk to somebody in my own industry for a reference?
If you own a retail store, then talking to a manufacturer for a reference probably won't help you much because your company processes accounting and payroll in a completely different way. Be sure to talk to a reference that is in a business similar to yours, so you get a true feel of how it could work for your own business.
Will it work with other software products I use?
Most businesses now use software for many different purposes whether it's for word processing or spreadsheet management to time clock entry and electronic data interchange ("EDI"). Be sure to find out whether your accounting and payroll software can fit together with your other software. Having your programs work together saves you significant reentry of data, which saves you time and cuts out a margin for error.
What are the product limitations?
A salesperson by nature does not want to tell you all the details of what a product cannot do; however be sure you understand what its limitations are. For example, you might find out that a software package has the capability for unlimited concurrent users. This may be true in theory, but in reality there is a limitation of how many the system can handle while still running efficiently. This number likely depends on many things like the number of items, customers, transactions, and history saved in the system, not to mention the database technology used. Gain a good understanding of these limitations before purchasing your new software.
How experienced is their technical support staff, and where are they?
Technical support experience varies greatly by company. Be sure to ask about the experience level of the staff that provides support. If you don't get a better answer than, "I'm not sure," you have reason to be skeptical. At times when you need help, you will definitely appreciate having an expert available instead of somebody who knows nothing about accounting or payroll. Do they outsource support services to another company?
Will this work for everybody at my company?
Don't forget that many people in a company are affected by the accounting and payroll software choice. Shipping may need to print special packing lists; accounts payable may need to print 1099 forms, and the warehouse may need a better way to perform a physical inventory count. These are just a few examples of problems that can easily be solved with your accounting software. Include input from people in all departments, so your new system will work well for the entire company.